By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Federal plans have created uncertainty on a potential new agreement between the Oshawa Port Authority and the city for the extension of Harbour Road.
At the Feb. 4 development services committee meeting, members voted in favour of referring the proposal to council for consideration on Feb. 8.
At that same meeting, OPA Harbourmaster and CEO Donna Taylor said an answer was needed by Feb. 15.
The next day, Transport Canada announced its intentions to amalgamate the port authorities of Oshawa and Hamilton.
Last September, the outgoing city council rejected a proposal from the OPA to construct a driveway to extend Harbour Road.
Port officials maintain the extension is required to meet the needs of expanding operations.
The point of contention for councillors opposing the proposal was the port declining to convey a 120-metre strip of land to act as a protective buffer for the Second Marsh.
After council rejected the proposal, the port triggered a 1976 agreement binding the City of Oshawa to construct a fully-serviced extension of Harbour Road, which would be funded evenly by the city and the port.
The port offered an amended agreement which includes a commitment to secure the future of the 120-metre buffer by limiting uses of the land, having no public access to the area, and planting indigenous species in recognition of the Second Marsh.
The new deal would also extend the current land use agreement between the city and the port for another 30 years.
But with the news of a possible amalgamation with Hamilton, several councillors raised concerns about endorsing a new proposal.
Mayor Dan Carter told The Oshawa Express he would “be shocked if the item is not tabled until we get more information.”
In his view, council can’t approve an agreement when they are unsure of what entity will be on the other side.
Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson believes any current and future dealings with the port authority “should be put on hold.”
“We have to know that the new port authority is committed to doing the same things as the current port authority,” he added.
To Ward 5 city councillor John Gray, it may be better to act now than wait.
“The driveway is still my preferred option because we don’t have to maintain it,” he said. “I’m more of a mind to try and see what we can get done now, and get going with our own West Wharf plans.”
Port Authority board chair Gary Valcour said the road extension needs to be done sooner than later.
“The reality is there is an agreement in place that has been triggered. We’ve never taken our foot off that particular gas pedal.
The amendment proposal is an effort to find a more “cost-beneficial way” for the extension to go forward and regardless of how the port authority will be composed in the future, Valcour is confident it will be a priority.